We arrived at 11:30, just as the gates were opening. Unfortunately, the ticket office opened a few minutes later and we didn't get in until about 11:40. That was all it took for us to miss our first opportunity for a Rangers autograph.
Derek Holland, winner of the Wednesday game, had signed a ton of autos by the time we arrived at a spot along the rail, just down from the Rangers dugout. It seemed every kid had a ball, card or shirt signed by Holland. That was great, but we missed out.
We stood and watched Julio Borbon practice throwing and Nelson Cruz working out (he was just back from a minor league rehab assignment and will be activated for tonight's game against Toronto). We could also see the A's pitchers throwing and doing light workouts across the field. A few of the A's pitchers signed from time to time, but I didn't see if Dallas Braden was one of those signing. Mojo, of Mojo and Beardy's Fantastic Baseball Card Blog said he was going to be there. I hope he got a ball signed by Braden like he wanted.
Nelson Cruz finished his light workout and did some long toss practice with one of the Rangers coaches/trainers. Cruz took one of the balls he used to practice and tossed it to a kid way down at the other end from where we were standing. He then took another ball and looked straight at my 8 year old and threw it his way. Now, I haven't mentioned the 8 year old and his love for baseball for a reason. He doesn't particularly like baseball. He was wearing a glove, but he has played catch exactly one time in his life and needless to say, he wasn't really prepared to catch the throw from Cruz. The ball hit him right in the stomach and bounced down at my feet. I quickly picked it up and handed it to him, which seemed to take some of the sting out of getting hit.
About 30 seconds later, Cruz came down and started signing autographs, getting to my oldest son first and then my younger son. We brought cards of almost everyone on the active roster, but failed to bring any Cruz cards. I knew he had been with the minor league club the night before and didn't expect to see him at the ballpark.
Fortunately I had a new official ball at home that my oldest son got signed. My youngest son got his "new" ball signed. He thought it was really cool to have a ball that Cruz had played catch with signed by Cruz.
We sat in the lower homerun porch in rightfield for the first 6 innings of the game. It was tied 1-1 at that point and we headed off to different seats as people started to leave (I think because it was so hot and it was Senior Day). We made a one inning detour to the kid's game area in center field. We sat near the left field foul pole for 1/2 inning. From that point on we moved every inning or so until we finished watching the game just behind the visitor's dugout. The game went until the 12th inning so there were plenty of empty seats. The Rangers won the game in the bottom of the 12th on a Vladimir Guerrero single to deep left center.
All in all, it was a great experience and brought back a ton of memories for me. I haven't been to a game in several years and I had lost touch with how great it is to experience a game in person. The fact that my sons were there was the cherry on top of the sundae. Or Thursday. Sort of like the giant sundaes they had that came in the mini Rangers batting helmets.
As I went to turn off my youngest son's lamp before I went to work, I noticed he had put his ball and a Cruz card on his bookshelf. I think baseball may have a new fan.
And one happy dad.